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Monday, October 08, 2007

Something You Don’t See Every Day

Something You Don’t See Every Day

October 9th is a big day for Valencianos. It is the day they celebrate the re-conquest of Valencia by Jaume I, it’s when Valencia expelled the Moors in 1238. The defeat of the Moors is celebrated all over Spain and mentioned at every possible occasion. It’s a pretty big deal to Spaniards, that’s why they begin celebrating here in Valencia almost a week before the actual holiday.

This Saturday evening there was a pageant recounting the victory of Jaume over the Moors which was held in the little square in front of Saint Valero church. The set for the pageant cut the little plaza in two with one of my favorite new cafes serving as the backstage area. I happened upon my new hangout between acts in the pageant and the entire cast was in the café getting into character for the next part of the play.

Most of the cast was in full battle regalia of the Moors, complete with chain mail suits, armor breast plates, and helmets and shoulder pads with long metal spikes. Most of the cast was also fairly drunk—I think they had been making a whole day of the celebration.

I waded into the café trying to avoid a permanent eye injury from one of the spikes and also saving a half dozens drinks from being swept off the counters by careless swords and javelins. Paco, the owner, and his staff were working furiously to serve the drunken army of Moors before the next scene. I took my usual glass of red wine and cautiously leaned back against the bar to enjoy the show.

There were damsels, maidens, princes, and princesses in the mix, but the most fervent bar customers were the Moors with their armor, scimitars, beers, and rum and cokes. In the pageant celebrating Jaume’s victory over the Moors, the Moors were the party animals. I was talking with one of the Moors and told him that they made bad Muslims who have a proscription against alcohol. I pointed to the bar top littered with beers, bottles of wine, and cocktails all in various stages of consumption. I also told him that they all probably had at least a kilogram of pork products making their way through their digestive system—swine is also a no-no for the followers of Mohammed. They made lousy Moors but exemplary Spaniards.

A woman came over from the stage area to say that they were going to begin the next part of the pageant. The Moors began another assault on the staff. Their order for yet another round of drinks was every bit as frantic as any battle seen in this part of the peninsula. Drinks were served, checks were paid, and then the singing started. What would a Moorish invasion of Paco’s bar be without a boisterous rendition of Valencia CF football chants? I thought this was just about the funniest, most entertaining thing that I had experienced in my time here in Valencia but there was something even better.

A few meters from the door of the café, a group of children were kneeling on a park bench looking over the back into the bar. I wish that I had a picture of these four kids looking on in amazement and wonder at the rowdy Moors who also happened to be big fans of Valencia Club de Fútbol.

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